Blog is written by Conner Kelderman, a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas and Matthew Dalthrop, a junior at Luther College in Decorah, IA. Conner and Matthew are at our grounds in Gonaives, Haiti.
As the week comes to a close, reflection seems to be best for the blog post from Matthew and I. I’m not sure I can express this week of sights, sounds, experiences, and relationship building in this blog and do it justice. Haiti brings out life’s simplicity to it’s finest with so many things to talk about. I’ll do my best.
Each time we drove up to Mission Etoile, there were smiling kids waiting for us. (the mission Silentor has started in Gonaives – meaning Mission Starfish because of the starfish story – if you haven’t heard Silentor’s story, you should should check into it on www.mh4h.org) Race, age, gender, appearance, or other demographics aside, one people – God’s people – are together for another day. I love the connection we built with these kids. I can see God at work at Etoile. I can see hope in eyes. I can see the impact Mission Etoile is going to have on this area. I said it in the last blog but I think I should mention it again, funding for the school and the kids sponsorships are needed to make this impact reality. I got to hang around and play with Lens (the boy my girlfriend, Jordyn Vande Lune, and I are sponsoring). I urge to you prayerfully consider how God is calling you in this. Financial support isn’t the only help this Mission needs. Prayers, supplies, trips, and promotion are just a few of the many other things.
I thank God for a fantastic week. It’s so fun for me to see things coming together, even during the time we were here watching. Silentor does fantastic work keeping the process moving. And if you know Haiti, keeping a project moving at a steady swift pace is a huge obstacle in itself. There are greater things to come in this city.
Matthew, Silentor, Woody, and I have listened to the song “We are the world – Haiti” more times than you can count in the last couple days. The song helps me understand everyone being “one people”. What an amazing thing that God’s love can break all boundaries and make us “one people”. WE are the world. For Matthew and me, this isn’t about US coming down here to help THEM. It’s about two men who are blessed tremendously, trying to use those blessings to provide a blessing to another member of the body. We have so many differences in culture and language but it’s nothing to be scared of or to be sorry about. It’s who we are, it’s where we are from, and it’s who the Lord made us. Romans 12:5 says, “in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.“ We are the world. We are God’s people. And we are all one body in Christ. Praise God.
At my summer camp this summer, the last day’s theme was “Taking it down the Mountain.” This meant that, as kids left and went back to their normal day-to-day lives, they were to take those lessons they learned down the mountain to incorporate them into their quote ‘normal’ life. Tonight, as we spend the last day in Haiti, I am once again faced with the same challenge. This is the final blog from our trip; these are our final thoughts and feelings before we climb on a plane, travel north to a seemingly different part of the world, and continue on with our life. This is the start of us taking it down the mountain.
Tonight, as a celebration of all that is beautiful with Haiti, we spent the evening at a resort in Kaliko Beach roughly an hour from Port au Prince. Although this top Haitian resort has rooms for only $100.00 a night, many Haitians are not able to see the beauty of its shores; when one only makes $400 a year, it’s tough to give a fourth of that for a evening at a resort. And while we’ve been here enjoying Haitian food and each other’s company, it has been becoming more and more clear to me: Haiti is a beautiful country.
This is not a statement I would have thought about about a week ago; the adjective ‘beautiful’ is not one that I would think of when thinking of Haiti. Instead, we Americans think of the opposite: poor, desperate, famished. The depressing list of a forgotten country could go on. And although those adjectives can be found – I’ve seen a good deal of poverty and dirty places while being here – my preconceived imagination of this place was far off from reality. Here, the Gospel is alive. Here, there is hope within every twinkle of a child who’s fascinated with something that is new to them; there is joy in every soccer game played barefoot on a rocky, sandy, grassless ground with a flattened ball; there is love in a community that praises God with every ounce of their being while baking in an metal church. The Gospel is alive in Haiti and what Haitians are doing for their neighbors.
Before I left, my pastor David Burling gave me a book to read; it’s entitled The Hole in Our Gospel. In the chapter I read today, the author describes the three most important commandments Jesus gave us: Love your God; Love your Neighbor; Go and make disciples of those who will do the same (i.e. the great commission). This is the Gospel that is alive here. And as I leave the shores of Haiti for now, I see this Gospel and these commandments in action. Here – especially with those who are a part of Mission Etoile – I see those commandments come to life. I see people here who love God, I see people here love their neighbor, and I see people here start organizations to encourage and empower others to love and serve both their God and neighbors who reside around them.
As we watched the Haitian sunset at the resort tonight, I was again reminded of the beauty of this place and these people. Being from Iowa, I’ve never seen a sunset setting in the horizon of ocean waters. If you haven’t either, take my word that it’s a beautiful thing. Tonight for me, however, it was more than a sunset; it was also a sunrise showcasing the hope of the future. As the sun rises, the rays of beauty and loving of the neighbors are but a glimpse of the brightness of the Kingdom when it returns. And so, like day receiving the light of the sunrise, this place – this Mission Etoile – is just getting started. Mission schools like Etoile are the rays of hope brightening the future of Haiti. They are but a glimpse of the loving and caring of neighbors that will happen later.
But just because the dawn has come does not mean our lights do not need to stop shinning (see Matthew 5:14-16). Greater things are yet to come here in Haiti. Greater things are still to be done. Will you be a part of it?